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Victory for asylum seekers

A Cape Town court has ruled that refugees can now apply for asylum status at Customs House.

Asylum seekers mark World Refugee Day by marching to Parliament on 20 June 2012. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - A non-governmental organisation on Wednesday won an urgent interdict forcing Home Affairs to allow refugees to apply for asylum status at Customs House.

In June, the department closed the controversial Maitland Refugee Reception Centre.

Customs House has been offering some services to refugees since, but not the processing of new applications for asylum seekers.

NGO Scalabrini Centre for Refugees took Home Affairs to court, as refugees were forced to travel to Durban, Musina or Pretoria to apply for asylum.

The group's Rebecca Chennels said, "There doesn't appear to be strong legal opposition as to why we can't accommodate the newcomers at Customs House."

She said Judge Dennis Davis ruled that it was not rational for Home Affairs to force refugees to seek asylum in other provinces.

Organisations such as People against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) have slammed Home Affairs for closing down the centre.

South Africa has the highest number of registered refugees globally.